Researchers study married combat veterans’ leisure habits (Penn State University)
Penn State researchers are studying leisure in the lives of married Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as a first step to ultimately designing an intervention program for veterans returning home after deployment. The study’s results will help investigators understand connections between leisure and veterans’ marital relationships as part of a larger effort to promote the health and well-being of recently returned veterans. Existing programs supporting veterans may organize events that are too infrequent or at inconvenient times and locations as well as being focused primarily on the individual veteran, researchers said. The focus of the current effort is on increasing the quality and frequency of daily leisure to promote both individual and couple well-being. “We’re really thinking holistically about the military family by examining the role of leisure with the service member and their spouse, to examine how leisure engagement influences marital relationships,” said Derrick Taff, lead investigator and assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management. Researchers with the College of Health and Human Development and the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness are in the process of studying a small sample of married veterans who served during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The pilot study is intended to lead to a larger quantitative study with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans before researchers use the combined results to develop a leisure intervention program to help veterans and their spouses adjust post-deployment.
Army finally gives Fort Hood victims their full entitlements (The Hill)
Commentary by USMC Lt. Col. James G. Zumwalt (ret.): “On April 10, a grievance by military victims of an enemy attack was partially addressed. However, it appeared a charade perpetuated by President Obama for six years would still leave the victims without that to which they were rightly entitled. To fully understand the victims’ plight, some background is needed. The Purple Heart is a unique military award. Most military medals are issued based on “recommendations” by others. However, one who sheds blood—i.e., is killed or wounded—“in any action against an enemy of the United States” becomes immediately entitled to the Purple Heart. The underlying basis for the medal makes it a “combat-related” award, generating certain medical and financial benefits, such as hostile fire pay, for recipients. For years, U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who were killed or wounded in those combat zones automatically received a Purple Heart. This included victims of “insider” attacks—where allied soldiers suddenly turned on their unsuspecting American counterparts, motivated to do so by the hateful jihadist ideology we have been fighting since 9/11. On November 5, 2009 at Fort Hood in Texas, another “insider” attack occurred. Unlike the others, the attacker, motivated by this same hateful jihadist ideology, was one of our own—U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan. Like the insider attackers in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hasan proved to be a jihadist warrior-in-hiding. His murderous rampage claimed the lives of 13 and wounded 32 before he was wounded. The Fort Hood shooting victims were denied automatic entitlement to the Purple Heart. It took an act of Congress to address this injustice, allowing them to receive their medals on April 10.”
$25k tech grants for vet-owned businesses taking applications (Stars & Stripes)
A Florida city and entrepreneurship education company are teaming up to offer $25,000 grants and an business boot camp to veteran-owned businesses looking to develop new web, mobile or technology products. Miami-based Venture Hive and the city of Fort Walton Beach are taking applications for a 12-week “accelerator course” open to veterans starting large-scale and global market companies. In addition to the $25,000 non-equity grant and course, those picked for the program will get access to collaborative work space in Fort Walton Beach for one year and exposure to potential investors, according to a press release. In addition, veterans or military spouses who owns businesses can apply for a “pre-accelerator” program for entrepreneurs in the earlier stages of developing businesses. The program is also 12 weeks but meets part time. Applications for both programs are due June 1. Up to 10 companies will receive grants. For more information, go to http://veterans.venturehive.com/
JBLM veteran’s caregiver becomes national voice for the role (The Bellingham Herald)
Rob Fidler joined the Army in his teens, and every time the military found itself in combat, he was part of it. Panama, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan — he spent his life jumping out of airplanes and landing in one war zone after another. It took a toll. “He’s been in combat since the late ’80s,” said his wife, Liz Hunt. “There have been a lot of injuries, large and small. He may have had a major traumatic brain injury years ago. “The last three years, it’s gotten progressively worse — the migraines, surgery to fuse his neck, stabbing pains in his arms and legs …” Last November, Fidler was medically retired from the service after ending his career at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “Three years ago, all he wanted to know was what was wrong with him,” Hunt said. “They still can’t tell him.” Some doctors believe it might have started with a stroke, but they don’t know for certain. Now the DuPont couple and their two sons, 7-year-old Skyler and 4-year-old Sydney, are trying to make a normal life. Hunt was already a mother and wife before she became a caregiver — seven days a week, 24 hours a day. In that way, she is like a lot of women at JBLM. A military family life counselor began a monthly meeting for caregivers, and Hunt was among those who attended the first session. “That first time, we could not shut up,” Hunt said of the gathered caregivers. “We compared stories, shared resources, talked about all that was involved. The bottom line? If you need help — financial, emotional, physical — you have to seek it out. “It’s an isolating role. It was good knowing I wasn’t alone.” More and more, the 44-year-old Hunt found herself reaching out to other caregivers, other organizations. She volunteered at the Intel DuPont Community Garden, and takes the boys with her when she can. The garden helps stocks food banks throughout Puget Sound. “It’s my outlet,” Hunt said. Late in February, she added a new title to her growing list of credentials. She was named the Washington state fellow for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, a national organization dedicated to raising awareness and support for military caregivers. “Later this year, we’re going to have a summit in Washington, D.C., and meet with congressional and Senate leaders,” Hunt said. “I’m thrilled to be a voice for caregivers. “There’s a reason we’re called ‘hidden heroes.’ We advocate for the people we care for, but there may be help we need, too.”
Veterans help other veterans learn to fly fish (LancasterOnline.com)
Clay Pankewicz spent eight years in the U.S. Army, serving tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti. The 27-year-old Denver resident has seen things he’d like to forget. Fortunately, he says he has found a way to do that. “When I fly-fish, I can forget all the bad stuff for a while,” said Pankewicz, who works as a security contractor. With the the help of Donegal Trout Unlimited, Pankewicz and Bill Nolan of Manheim Township, Pa., hope to help other veterans find solace with a fly rod as well. On May 2, Pankewicz, Nolan and other Donegal Trout Unlimited members will launch the organization’s Veterans Initiative. It’s a free, 6-month program designed to teach military veterans the essentials of fly-fishing. Pankewicz said the program includes instruction on coldwater and warmwater fisheries, entomology, casting instruction, and — most importantly — time on the water. “If they have no experience at all, after 6 months, they should be ready to go out on their own,” said Nolan, 40, who served 12 years in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, from 1992-2004.
Program gives formerly homeless vets a chance at civilian worklife (CBS-Philadelphia)
Ten US military veterans, all formerly homeless, graduated today from a job training program during ceremonies at a center city Philadelphia hotel. The five-year-old program helps these men and women rebuild their lives by getting the skills needed to handle a civilian workplace. One graduate, Andre Hargrave (second from right in photo), says he had a lot to learn after his time in the Army. “First of all, how to calm down,” he admitted. “How to be not so ready to just run or do something. To have faith that the things we were working toward were gonna work out for us.” He’s currently applying for work and expects to land something soon. Another new graduate, Ronald Mimms, says the training program — sponsored by social services agency Project Home and by Peco, the electric utility — saved his life. “It was a real dark time,” he recalls. “My hopes weren’t all that great for the future. And the program came along and gave me an opportunity to get back on my feet.” And back into the working world, at a local hotel.